Environmental Activists Call Out Canada’s Failure to Reclaim Stinking Trash, Ask PM Trudeau to Re-Import “Overstaying” Garbage

As Filipinos usher in the Duterte government and his promise of change, environmental activists gathered anew outside the Embassy of Canada in Makati City to denounce the long-drawn-out Canadian garbage dumping scandal that has haunted the outgoing Aquino administration.

At a peaceful rally organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and Buklod Tao, the activists called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his government’s failure to re-import the illegal trash shipments that have been rotting in Manila and Subic ports.

“We ask PM Trudeau not to saddle the Duterte government with these overstaying containers of reeking garbage from Canada.  His government must move quickly to repossess these illegal shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” said Noli Abinales, President of the  EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on chemicals and wastes. 

“Removing Canada’s garbage from our ports will be viewed as a meaningful gesture of goodwill towards the new government and put this hullabaloo behind us,” he pointed out.

To get their message across loud and clear, the protestors paraded 12 mock garbage-filled shipping containers bearing Canada’s iconic maple leaf and  unveiled a banner that says “PM Trudeau: What ever happened to the ‘Canadian  solution’? For the sake of justice, take back garbage now!”

On the fringe of the APEC Summit last year, Trudeau stated that a “Canadian solution” is being developed to address the dumping controversy that had remained unresolved for far too long.

The Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy (Green Convergence), Citizens’ Environmental Network (CEN) and the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) also joined the EcoWaste Coalition in appealing to Trudeau to act fast on the matter.

“We reiterate our demand for PM Trudeau to take their trash back as soon as possible so we can conclude this unhappy episode in Canada-Philippines relations and move on,” said Dr. Angelina Galang, President of the Green Convergence.

“I add my voice to the persistent call asking Canada to re-import their garbage and bring this blatant case of environmental injustice to a close under the Duterte presidency.  We’ve waited long enough, it’s time to return those stinking containers to where they came from,” said “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes, Lead Convenor, CEN.

Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, one of the convenors of GTC and Secretary General of Sanlakas said: “Canada has to assume full responsibility for its illegal garbage export to the Philippines that contravenes national and international laws.  PM Trudeau must act fast with unflinching resolve to put this matter to rest.”

It will be recalled that some 103 shipping containers of largely residual household garbage declared as scrap plastics for recycling were illegally exported to the Philippines from Canada from 2013-2014.  In 2015, garbage from 26 of these containers was unlawfully disposed of at a landfill in Tarlac, causing an uproar.

A government-led waste characterization study in 2014 confirmed that 63.94% of the garbage shipments were residuals, which can no longer be recycled and should be properly disposed of.

Local authorities, including officials from the provincial governments of Bulacan and Tarlac and the city governments of Navotas and Quezon Cities, have rejected foreign waste disposal in landfill facilities operating within their jurisdictions.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which espouses environmental justice and zero waste, has warned that “the disposal of the Canadian garbage in local landfills, cement kilns and waste-to-energy facilities will be totally wrong and unacceptable,” and will be in violation of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and related local regulations.

The group noted that “Canada, a highly developed country, should have no problem dealing with their soiled diapers, spent electronics, plastic junks and other rubbish right in their own backyard,” stressing “there is no justification at all for their refuse to remain in our soil to be buried or burned.”  

In the proposed “Agenda on Wastes and Toxics for President Rodrigo Duterte’s First 100 Days in Office” submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to the Duterte team in Davao City last May 18, the group requested the new government to “order the re-export of Canadian garbage back to its origin and initiate policy reforms to effectively block foreign waste dumping in the country, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.”